Hangers vs Hangars: Getting Hooked on the Differing Uses

When organizing your closet or tidying up the laundry room, you’ve probably encountered the terms “hangers” and “hangars” and wondered – what exactly is the difference? While they sound quite similar and both relate to hanging objects, hangers and hangars actually have distinct definitions and purposes.

In this post, we’ll explore the key differences between these two easily confused terms. We’ll unpack how hangers and hangars serve different functions related to fashion, retail, aviation, and beyond.

Hangers – For Hanging Clothes

A hanger is a device specifically designed to hang clothing. In the wardrobe context, hangers are those thin, often curved, objects made of wire, plastic, or wood that hooks over a rail. You slide the hanger through the neck hole or loop of a shirt, dress, jacket, or pants to suspend the garment.

This allows clothes to hang neatly and wrinkle-free in your closet. It also creates space since clothing stacked on shelves takes up more room. Hangers come in many designs such as:

  • Standard wire hangers with a central hook
  • Padded hangers to keep garment shapes
  • Thin plastic shirt/skirt hangers with clips
  • Wooden hangers for delicate fabrics
  • Children’s miniature plastic hangers
  • Heavyweight wooden hangers for coats and jackets

Hangers are essential closet tools for neatly organizing and storing clothes when not being worn. They represent a ubiquitous household item that enables wardrobe management.

Hangars – For Storing Aircraft

In contrast to clothing hangers, a hangar is a large structure used to store or maintain aircraft when they are not flying. The term hangar originated in the early 20th century from when canvas-covered temporary sheds “hung” planes inside.

Today, hangars refer to any specialized building that houses aircraft and related equipment. Airline hangars at airports provide space for:

  • Parking planes indoors when not in use
  • Protecting aircraft from weather, dirt and damage
  • Conducting inspections, testing, repairs and maintenance
  • Refueling, loading cargo and boarding passengers

Larger hangars can accommodate multiple airliners at once. Some hangars even have space for smaller private planes. Hangars range from basic metal sheds to elaborate terminals with offices, shops, lounges and conference rooms.

For aviation purposes, the correct spelling is “hangar” – often remembering it this way helps avoid confusing it with clothing hangers.

Etymology and Early Origins

The shared root word for hangers and hangars comes from the Old English word “hangian” meaning “to hang.” Hangars got their name from originally being structures that hung canvas to shelter early biplanes. Clothing hangers were likely coined as hang-ers for their purpose of hanging garments.

While early wardrobes simply used wall hooks, hangers became more popular early 1900’s as garment manufacturing evolved. The wire hanger was patented in 1903 as an effort to reduce costs. Meanwhile, the first aircraft hangars popped up in the 1910s housing early Wright Brothers and military planes.

So while both terms originate from “to hang,” hanger and hangar diverged based on their unique purposes for hanging clothes versus aircraft.

Shared Shape and Design

Despite their different functions, both hangers and hangars utilize similar shapes and design. The distinctive hook or triangular shape with an opening reflects their shared purpose – creating empty space to place something inside.

For hangers, the hook anchors to a closet rod while the base holds the garment. Hangars use slim, molded forms to maximize room for clothes to hang freely.

Similarly, aircraft hangars have arched roofs to allow ample clearance for tails and wings. The openings are made as tall and wide as possible to fit large aircraft. Hangars rely on lightweight aluminum or tension beams rather than load-bearing walls for fewer interior obstructions.

So both hangers and hangars achieve their goal through unencumbered, maximized empty space – one for clothes and one for planes.

Shared Problems – Clutter and Collisions

An overstuffed closet with too many clothes jammed together can cause hanger headaches. Tightly packed hangers often get tangled up and damage delicate fabrics. Similarly, crowded hangars increase the risks of accidental “hangar rash” dings and dents to aircraft.

Messy, cluttered hangers and hangars impair their primary purpose. Orderly organization is crucial. That’s why categorizing clothes by type or color on hangers improves wardrobe flow. Designating certain hangars for repairs reduces aircraft ground collisions. Preventing dangerous clutter enhances their core functionality.

Future Possibilities

With sustainability concerns growing, future hangers and hangars may share high-tech upgrades such as:

  • Biodegradable eco-friendly materials from bamboo or recycled plastics
  • Solar-powering features such as LED lights or digital displays
  • Sensors to track inventory or environmental conditions
  • Robotics and automation for sorting and retrieval

While their end uses differ, integrating smart features would further optimize the capabilities of both hangers and hangars. Shared innovation could hang them together in functionality.

The Key Difference

While hangers and hangars relate in origin, shape and clutter challenges, one key factor separates their distinct purposes:


The size difference is immense between a thin 2 lb plastic hanger and a 20,000 ton aircraft hangar. But both leverage similar forms with opening space to serve their hanging needs, whether for clothes or airplanes.

The Takeaway

They sound incredibly similar, but hangers and hangars have distinct usages apart from their shared “hang” etymology. Understanding the subtle spelling difference provides clarity between these easily confused terms.

So the next time you’re organizing your closet or passing by an airport, you’ll know exactly why clothing hangers and aircraft hangars only differ by a single letter, but not in purpose. Getting the hang of which does what takes any confusion out of the equation.

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